Following last weeks dominating 5-0 performance over a short-handed Red Wings club in Philadelphia, the Flyers knew a daunting task stood in their way of solidifying a playoff spot before the impending Olympic break: a California road trip. Years ago, taking on the likes of the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks would’ve been a cakewalk; but times have changed. It’s now a murderers row of the NHL elite. And tonight is the final stanza against a struggling, but dangerous Sharks squad.
Many pundits gave the Flyers no chance heading into Thursday’s showdown with the league-leading Anaheim Ducks, and despite the loss, the orange and black showed they’re no pushovers when it comes to battling the elite. They ended up losing 5-3, but that score in somewhat misleading in how competitive the game really was.
Next up was a Saturday matinee with the LA Kings, arguably the best defensive team in hockey. Fortunately for the Flyers, this Kings club seems impervious to scoring goals and it showed. Los Angeles absolutely dominated ice position and shots on goal (almost a 3 to 1 margin), but Steve Mason put together a stellar performance. And despite the Flyers managing only 13 shots on Olympian and former Conn Smythe winner Jonathon Quick, they managed to get two past him.
Wayne Simmonds, making his first return to LA since the Richards trade, was all over the ice. And #17 fittingly scored his 100th career goal and eventual game winner. Simmonds, who has become a huge part of the Flyers future, was even wearing the “A” on his jersey (in place of an injured Timonen), showing just much he’s grown into an integral piece of this organization. Giroux added a late Power Play goal with around two minutes remaining to secure the much needed win.
Tonight the Flyers move on to San Jose to take a very dangerous team. The Sharks boast plenty of skill both up front and on the blueline; not to mention in net with Antti Niemi (who most will remember beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup as a member of Chicago). With a packed Metropolitan division it would be a huge boon to take two out of three on this gauntlet of a west coast road trip. If the orange and black play defensively the way they have over the past week then there’s a significant chance Philadelphia can continue gaining ground in the extremely tight Metropolitan.
Just a few tidbits:
- Since Zac Rinaldo’s return the team appears to be playing with a whole new level of energy. Critics can say what they will about the young agitator but he’s shown in two games that he can absolutely throw the opposition into a tizzy. He’s already had two (CLEAN) devastating hits. And his enthusiasm appears to contagious as the rest of the squad has followed suit.
- Kimmo Timonen was held out of Saturday’s game for precautionary reasons, but it’s very possible he’s back in the lineup tonight.
- Erik Gustafsson (in my humble opinion) has been the Flyers best defender since his return. He’s managed to fend off Meszaros for the final spot while playing speed, savvy, and skill. It’s obvious that when he has confidence that he can be a solid contributor from the back-end.
- Hopefully Steve Mason’s past few performances (including two shutouts) will quiet the critics who lamented his new contract.
Tune in tonight at 10pm to see the Flyers visit the Sharks in an important game for both teams.